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June 15 — A proposed purchase of the bankrupt Gawker Media LLC would include the media company's assets but not its liabilities, potentially imperiling a collective bargaining agreement for nearly 100 editorial staffers ( In re Gawker Media LLC , Bankr. S.D.N.Y., No. 16-11700 (SMB), debtors' motion 6/13/16 ).
The New York-based Gawker June 10 filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and put itself up for sale, an action that came days after losing a $140 million invasion-of-privacy lawsuit brought by former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan.
Media company Ziff Davis, owner of publications such as PC Magazine and Geek.com, has since made a $90 million “stalking-horse bid” for Gawker.
The bid seeks a judge's approval to purchase Gawker's assets “free and clear” of liabilities. That option means “free and clear of any and all liens, claims, interests and encumbrances (except for Assumed Liabilities) in accordance with section 363(f) of the Bankruptcy Code,” according to the filing.
The bid specifies exclusion of liabilities such as “to or arising from any collective bargaining agreement with a labor union, including any related multi-employer pension plan,” according to the court document.
The proposed deal comes months after a group of 99 editorial staffers, represented by the Writers Guild of America East, ratified a first CBA with Gawker March 1. Jason Gordon, a spokesman for the WGAE, told Bloomberg BNA June 15 that Ziff Davis's proposal “says the bidder has not determined what to do with any of Gawker's contracts and leases.”
Officials at Gawker did not respond to Bloomberg BNA's request for comment June 15. A spokeswoman for Ziff Davis declined to comment.
“The Writers Guild of America, East looks forward to continuing our productive relationship with Gawker, before and after any sale supervised by the court,” WGAE's executive director Lowell Peterson said in a written statement June 15.
The June 13 court filing does not specify the WGAE. The Gawker labor contract is the WGAE's first successful CBA in its aggressive campaign to organize thousands of digital journalists along the East Coast, addressing issues such as increasing wages and other workplace standards.
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Text of the motion is available at https://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/desktop/document/Gawker_Media_LLC_Docket_No_116bk11700_Bankr_SDNY_Jun_10_2016_Cour/2?1466029002.
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